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Wildfire overruns camping area

200 people saved in forest; more blazes flare up in California by The Associated Press | September 7, 2020 at 4:00 a.m.
A wildfire burns in Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Three fast-spreading California wildfires sent people fleeing Saturday, with one trapping campers at a reservoir in the Sierra National Forest, as a brutal heat wave pushed temperatures into triple digits in many parts of state. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

SHAVER LAKE, Calif. -- More than 200 people were airlifted to safety early Sunday after a fast-moving wildfire trapped them in a popular camping area in California's Sierra National Forest, one of several fires that broke out amid record-breaking, triple-digit temperatures that baked the state.

The California Office of Emergency Services said Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters were used for the rescues that began late Saturday and continued overnight. At least two people were severely injured and 10 more suffered moderate injuries. Two campers refused rescue and stayed behind, the Madera County Sheriff's Office said.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to view » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SS6N-M_5cU]

A photo tweeted by the National Guard showed at least 20 evacuees crammed into a helicopter, crouched on the floor clutching their belongings. In another photo taken on the ground from the cockpit, the densely wooded hills surrounding the aircraft were in flames.

The wildfire, named the Creek Fire, started Friday and by Saturday afternoon exploded to 56 square miles, jumped the San Joaquin River and cut off the only road into the Mammoth Pool Campground, national forest spokesman Dan Tune said. At least 2,000 structures were threatened in the area about 290 miles north of Los Angeles.

Tune said the campers were told to shelter in place until fire crews, aided by water-dropping aircraft, could gain access to the site.

Bone-dry conditions and the hot weather fueled the flames.

"Once the fire gets going, it creates its own weather, adding wind to increase the spread," Tune said.

Juliana Park recorded video of flames on both sides of her car as she and others fled down a mountain road.

"A backpacking trip cut short by unforeseen thunder, ash rain, and having to drive through literal fire to evacuate #SierraNationalForest in time," Park tweeted. "Grateful to the SNF ranger who led us down... wish we got her name."

Lindsey Abbott and her family were guided to safety by a stranger they followed down from their campsite near Whisky Falls.

"It was so hot, you could feel the flames going through the window," she told KFSN-TV in Fresno.

Ashley Wagner was among those rescued, along with two relatives and a friend. They were trapped in Logan's Meadow behind Wagner's Store, a 63-year-old business run by her aunt that was destroyed.

"My family's history just went up in flames," Wagner told the news station.

In Southern California, a fire in the foothills of Yucaipa east of Los Angeles prompted evacuation orders for eastern portions of the city of 54,000 along with several mountain communities. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, said the fire scorched at least 4.2 square miles of brush and trees.

[Gallery not loading above? Click here for more photos » arkansasonline.com/97wildfires/]

Bob Fonzi nervously watched the fire race across ridges near his remote home on a winding road.

"If that sweeps around, it comes into my back door," he told KABC-TV on Saturday. "And the problem with that is there's no easy access for fire personnel."

The blaze was just 5% contained Sunday morning.

In eastern San Diego County, the Valley Fire broke out Saturday afternoon and fire officials warned the blaze was burning at a "dangerous rate of speed." By Sunday morning it had destroyed at least 10 structures after burning 6.25 square miles and prompting evacuations near the remote community of Alpine in the Cleveland National Forest. At least two of the lost structures were homes, KGTV reported. There was no containment of the fire.

Cal Fire said nearly 12,500 firefighters were battling 22 major fires in the state. Despite the heat, firefighters were able to contain two major fires in coastal Monterey County.

California has seen 900 wildfires since Aug. 15, many of them started by an intense series of thousands of lightning strikes. The blazes have burned more than 1.5 million acres. There have been eight deaths and nearly 3,300 structures destroyed.

The heat wave was expected to spread triple-digit temperatures over much of California through Monday.

The wind whips embers from a tree burned by a wildfire Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Three fast-spreading California wildfires sent people fleeing Saturday, with one trapping campers at a reservoir in the Sierra National Forest, as a brutal heat wave pushed temperatures into triple digits in many parts of state. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
The wind whips embers from a tree burned by a wildfire Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Three fast-spreading California wildfires sent people fleeing Saturday, with one trapping campers at a reservoir in the Sierra National Forest, as a brutal heat wave pushed temperatures into triple digits in many parts of state. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
In this Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, photo released by the California National Guard, shows the view from a Cal Guard Chinook helicopter last night rescuing people trapped after the Creek Fire in central California left them stranded. More than 200 people were airlifted to safety after a fast-moving wildfire trapped them in a popular camping area in California's Sierra National Forest. The California Office of Emergency Services said Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters were used for the rescues that began Saturday night and continued overnight. (California National Guard via AP)
In this Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, photo released by the California National Guard, shows the view from a Cal Guard Chinook helicopter last night rescuing people trapped after the Creek Fire in central California left them stranded. More than 200 people were airlifted to safety after a fast-moving wildfire trapped them in a popular camping area in California's Sierra National Forest. The California Office of Emergency Services said Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters were used for the rescues that began Saturday night and continued overnight. (California National Guard via AP)
A wildfire burns in Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Three fast-spreading California wildfires sent people fleeing Saturday, with one trapping campers at a reservoir in the Sierra National Forest, as a brutal heat wave pushed temperatures into triple digits in many parts of state. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A wildfire burns in Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Three fast-spreading California wildfires sent people fleeing Saturday, with one trapping campers at a reservoir in the Sierra National Forest, as a brutal heat wave pushed temperatures into triple digits in many parts of state. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
California National Guard shows dozens of evacuees are evacuated to safety on a Cal Guard Chinook Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, after the Creek Fire in central California left them stranded. More than 200 people were airlifted to safety after a fast-moving wildfire trapped them in a popular camping area in California's Sierra National Forest. The California Office of Emergency Services said Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters were used for the rescues that began Saturday night and continued overnight. (California National Guard via AP)
California National Guard shows dozens of evacuees are evacuated to safety on a Cal Guard Chinook Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, after the Creek Fire in central California left them stranded. More than 200 people were airlifted to safety after a fast-moving wildfire trapped them in a popular camping area in California's Sierra National Forest. The California Office of Emergency Services said Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters were used for the rescues that began Saturday night and continued overnight. (California National Guard via AP)
Members of a hand crew work on the fire line in Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Members of a hand crew work on the fire line in Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Plumes of smoke rise into the sky as a wildfire burns on the hills near Shaver Lake, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Fires in the Sierra National Forest have prompted evacuation orders as authorities urged people seeking relief from the Labor Day weekend heat wave to stay away from the popular lake. (Eric Paul Zamora/The Fresno Bee via AP)
Plumes of smoke rise into the sky as a wildfire burns on the hills near Shaver Lake, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Fires in the Sierra National Forest have prompted evacuation orders as authorities urged people seeking relief from the Labor Day weekend heat wave to stay away from the popular lake. (Eric Paul Zamora/The Fresno Bee via AP)
An air tanker drops retardant at a wildfire burns at a hillside in Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Three fast-spreading wildfires sent people fleeing and trapped campers in one campground as a brutal heat wave pushed temperatures above 100 degrees in many parts of California. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
An air tanker drops retardant at a wildfire burns at a hillside in Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Three fast-spreading wildfires sent people fleeing and trapped campers in one campground as a brutal heat wave pushed temperatures above 100 degrees in many parts of California. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Members of firefighters walk in line during a wildfire in Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Three fast-spreading California wildfires sent people fleeing Saturday, with one trapping campers at a reservoir in the Sierra National Forest, as a brutal heat wave pushed temperatures into triple digits in many parts of state.(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Members of firefighters walk in line during a wildfire in Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Three fast-spreading California wildfires sent people fleeing Saturday, with one trapping campers at a reservoir in the Sierra National Forest, as a brutal heat wave pushed temperatures into triple digits in many parts of state.(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A helicopter drops water at a wildfire in Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Three fast-spreading California wildfires sent people fleeing Saturday, with one trapping campers at a reservoir in the Sierra National Forest, as a brutal heat wave pushed temperatures into triple digits in many parts of state.(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A helicopter drops water at a wildfire in Yucaipa, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Three fast-spreading California wildfires sent people fleeing Saturday, with one trapping campers at a reservoir in the Sierra National Forest, as a brutal heat wave pushed temperatures into triple digits in many parts of state.(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
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